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Public meeting in Fort Walton Beach seeks input on bear plan

News Release

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Media contact: Joy Hill, 352-732-1225

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is holding its third public workshop for input on a draft plan that will ensure a sustainable and socially acceptable Florida black bear population throughout the state. The meeting is Tuesday, Oct. 5, at 6 p.m. in the Building 8 Auditorium of the Fort Walton Beach campus of Northwest Florida State College, 1170 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Fort Walton Beach, Okaloosa County.

The first meeting was held in late August in Apalachicola, and the second was in early September in Deltona; other meeting dates will be announced as arrangements are finalized.

"The plan proposes a framework to manage bears at the local level," said Dave Telesco, the FWC's bear management coordinator. "This includes conserving appropriate amounts of bear habitat, stabilizing the level of complaints about bears, and securing adequate funding to implement the plan."

FWC staff drafted the Bear Management Plan with assistance from a technical advisory group that included representatives from environmental, hunting and government organizations.

The Florida black bear is a state-threatened species whose populations are increasing in some areas but are still quite restricted in others.  Because of this variability, the plan proposes to create several bear management units, which will consider specific challenges and characteristics of the different geographical locations.

The plan sets up broad objectives under which each bear management unit would operate. Within those units, local stakeholder groups will work with the FWC to set management objectives and standards for resolving human-bear conflicts. If the plan is accepted, the next stage would be to recruit stakeholders to participate in advisory groups within each bear management unit.

At the meetings, the FWC will give a brief presentation outlining the plan objectives and take questions from attendees.  Anyone attending the meetings interested in making statements about the plan will be able to do so verbally or through written comment cards.

"We encourage the public and local governments to help us improve this draft and develop the final plan," Telesco said. "Feedback is essential to make this plan effective." 

The draft plan is available online for public review and comment at http://share2.myfwc.com/BearMP/default.aspx.  For more information on Florida black bears, go to MyFWC.com/Bear.



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